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Politics

Looks Like Obama Will Keep Joe Biden in 2012

July 19, 2011 - 6:00pm

Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a new look for his Facebook page this week. He draped his site in Obama 2012 campaign logos and links to all kinds of Obama 2012 sites.

While there have been assorted rumblings that Obama will replace Biden with any of a host of other Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Mark Warner -- don't bet on it. Its increasingly clear that the O and Joe ticket will return in 2012.

A president switching running mates has not been very common in recent decades. Yes, FDR did it -- twice -- but, as with so many things, he was the exception, not the rule. For the most part, even vice presidents who were seen as drags on the ticket -- like Dan Quayle in 1992 or Richard Nixon in 1956 -- were kept.

Gerald Ford was the last president who tossed aside his vice president and it didn't work out for him. Neither the president, who was appointed vice president by Nixon before taking over the White House in 1974, or his vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, had been elected to their offices when Ford turned his attention to winning a term in his own right in the 1976 election cycle.

Ford decided that Rockefeller, a veteran of New York and national politics who was much more liberal than most Republicans, was a liability and replaced him with a rising political star from Kansas by the name of Bob Dole. Despite being tossed aside, Rockefeller helped Ford by delivering New York to the president during his close contest with Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination.

Ford went on to lose to Democrat Jimmy Carter in a close contest that November. Carter carried New York by 4 points over Ford -- enough of a margin to think that Rockefeller, who had carried the Empire State four times in gubernatorial elections, could have helped turned the tide for the Republicans.

While Ford would later muse that removing Rockefeller from the 1976 Republican ticket was one of his chief regrets as president, he urged two later presidents to do the exact same thing. In Write It When I'm Gone, a book of conversations he had with Ford, Thomas M. DeFrank recounts that the former president urged George H.W. Bush to dump Quayle from the 1992 ticket and later urged George W. Bush to replace Dick Cheney, who had been White House chief of staff under Ford, with either Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki in 2004.

With the exceptions of Ford dumping Rockefeller and FDR replacing John Nance Garner with Henry Wallace -- and then tossing aside Wallace for Harry Truman four years later -- most presidents of the last century seemed content keeping their vice president on the ticket, though there were signs that, had he survived to run again in 1924, Warren G. Harding would have replaced Calvin Coolidge with Charles Dawes.

But during the turbulent 19th century, most presidents had no problem tossing aside vice presidents. It may be telling that James Sherman, a New Yorker who served as vice president under William Howard Taft, was the first vice president to be renominated by a national political convention -- and that was back in 1912. But, in the chaotic politics that ranged from the Jacksonian era to the Progressive era, only three presidents won two consecutive terms and only Ulysses S. Grant actually served eight years in a row (the other two presidents who won re-election, Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley, were both assassinated).

In recent decades, the vice presidency has grown in importance. It has certainly become more politically advantageous.When George H.W. Bush won the 1988 presidential election, he was the first sitting vice president to win a presidential election since Martin Van Buren did it back in 1836. Nixon, of course, went from the vice presidency to the White House in 1968 after eight years in the wilderness, beating a sitting vice president to boot in Hubert Humphrey. After eight years as Bill Clintons vice president, Al Gore came very close to winning the White House in 2000, and Walter Mondale and Humphrey were able to use the vice presidency as a springboard to winning the Democratic presidential nomination. Quayle, on the other hand, didn't even make it to the Iowa caucus when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

Biden is an unlikely choice to continue to build that momentum, but he has launched a few trial balloons that he could be looking at making a presidential bid in 2016. While he would turn 74 a couple of weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Biden has been hitting the campaign trail in key caucus and primary states including Iowa and New Hampshire. Earlier in the year, Biden told Democratic fundraisers to keep him in mind come 2016. Having launched two bids for the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008, the presidential ambitions could still be burning in Biden.

Despite coming from a small state, Biden did not undermine Obamas chances in 2008 and appears very likely to continue as the presidents understudy. While there are certainly other Democrats looking at 2016 who would love to use the vice presidency as a launching pad, for the moment it looks like Obama has no intention of going against recent history by tossing Biden aside.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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